Tibet, Mahakala – Panjarnata (4)

14th-15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Lempertz.

This form of Mahakala has one head with three eyes and bared fangs, two hands holding a flaying knife and skull cup, and two legs, both bent as if crouching. There is normally a victim lying face upward under his feet.

The above has red pigment on his mitre-like hair. He wears a five-skull crown, jewellery, a sacred thread and a celestial scarf .

14th-15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, painted clay, at the Newark Museum (USA).

On this small clay sculpture (9,5 cm) he holds a danda stick across his chest. His hair, eyebrows, mouth and lower garment are also painted red.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, stone and pigments, at the Art Institute of Chicago (USA).

We saw in a previous post two examples of panjarnata Mahakala seated rather than squatting, only the most recent one came complete with a victim under him. Part of his celestial scarf is broken but we can see how it formed an arch behind his head. There is an effigy of Akshobhya in his headdress and a long snake knotted across his belly in the guise of a sacred thread.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (USA).

His danda stick has a flaming jewel at each end. The above wears his hair gathered in a bunch and topped with a half-vajra finial. He wears a garland of severed heads, a snake cord and beaded accessories including a belt with raining jewel pendants.

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala, polychrome wood, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

His hair is usually fastened with a cobra snake (or two).

16th-17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, wood with pigments, private collection, photo by Astamangala.

On paintings he stands amidst blazing fire. On sculptures he may have a showy flaming mandorla attached to his back.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper and pigments, at a Sakyapa monastery.

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Tibet, Mahakala – unusual forms

Some forms of Mahakala are rarely seen, and almost exclusively on paintings.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala Kakaya karma, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby's.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala Kakaya karma, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This is the raven-headed form of Mahakala (with three eyes and flaming hair), also known as Kakamukha. He holds a flaying knife in his right hand and another object in the other (instead of the standard skull cup) .He is adorned with a five-skull crown, a garland of severed heads, bone jewellery, a Chinese-style flowing scarf.

Mahakala Kakaya karma, Tibet, 17th c., gilt c.a., 18,5 cm, raven head, 3 eyes, close up

He wears a tiger skin dhoti (the paws of the animal are showing below the garland of severed heads), a cross-belt with a raining-jewel pendant, and some kind of sash or belt ending with raining jewels.

Undated, Tibet, Bernag Chen, stone, at the New Delhi Museum.

Undated (15th century circa?), Tibet, Bernag Chen, stone, at the Tibet House Museum in New, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Bernag Chen (“black cloak”) is a form of Mahakala proper to Tibet. He has one head with three eyes and flaming hair, two hands in which he holds a flaying knife and a skull cup, and two legs which stand on a victim. Surrounded with flames, he is adorned with the usual skull crown, garland of severed heads, bone jewellery, and wears a large cloak.

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala Vyaghra Vahana, wood, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA).

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala Vyaghra Vahana, wood, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA).

This more modern work depicts him in a similar form but he rides a tiger and holds a flaming sword.

Tibet, Mahakala- Shadbhuja (6)

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie's.

15th century, Tibet, Shadbhuja Mahakala, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Leaning on one knee, the other leg extended, Mahakala holds the hide of an elephant in his upper hands, stretching it across his back. His main hands hold a flaying knife and skull cup. In the remaining two, there is a drum and a noose. He wears a tiger skin dhoti…

15th c., Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja, gilt c.a., 16,8 cm, skull cup+chopper, elephant hide, noose+drum, tiger skin, close up

and is adorned with a five-skull crown, some jewellery, a garland of severed heads, a cross-belt.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja with consort, copper alloy on a copper stand, private collection, published by Bonhams.

15th century circa, Tibet, Shadbhuja Mahakala with consort, copper alloy on a copper stand, private collection, published by Bonhams.

This is a rare image of the deity, in his 6-arm form (shadbhuja), with three heads, four legs (instead of six), embracing his consort.

15th c., Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja+consort, bronze+cop. stand, close up

He holds the hide of an elephant, a skull cup, a drum, a vajra and bell, and probably a noose, she holds a flaying knife and a skull cup.

15th c., Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja+consort, lotus base

They stand on two prostrate figures over a Yongle-style single-lotus base with beading.

15th c., Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja+consort, c.a.+cop., 3 heads, elephant hide, skull cups, vajra+bell, kneeling women, 2 prostrate demons, dhotis

She wears a leopard skin dhoti and a bone apron with raining-jewel pendants. He wears a tiger skin loin cloth.

15th c., Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja+consort, c.a.+cop., 3 heads, elephant hide, skull cups, vajra+bell, kneeling women, 2 prostrate demons, kneeling figure

There are two kneeling ladies at his feet (the above is partly hidden by the garland of severed heads).

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper alloy, at the British Museum.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper, at the British Museum (UK).

This sculpture depicts him standing on Ganapati (who holds a cup), a vajra-handled flaying knife and a skull cup in his main hands, the hide of an elephant in the upper ones, a noose and a round object in the others. There is a half vajra at the centre of his five-skull crown, which is adorned with large bows and elegant matching ribbons.

 

Tibet, Mahakala – Panjarnata (3)

14th-15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, parcel gilt copper alloy, private collection, published Rossi & Rossi.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, parcel gilt copper alloy, private collection, published Rossi & Rossi.

Mahakala with one head and three eyes, two arms arms and two legs, is standing over a corpse on a Yongle-style double-lotus base. He is adorned with a five-skull crown, a garland of 50 freshly severed heads, jewellery, a celestial scarf that forms graceful loops at elbow level, he holds a skull cup and a vajra-handled flaying knife at heart level.

14th-15th c., Tibet, Mahakala, parcel gilt+pig.+rock crystal eyes+glass, 40,2 cm, close up

His flaming hair is painted with orange pigment, his eyes are made of rock crystal,  his jewellery is inlaid with coloured glass.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper alloy, at the Walters Art Museum.

15th century, Tibet, Tsang province, Mahakala, gilt hammered copper alloy, at the Walters Art Museum (USA).

This rare sculpture depicts Mahakala in a sitting position (the base is missing but he was probably resting on a victim), holding his usual attributes, adorned with a five-skull crown with foliate panels inlaid with stones, bows and ribbons, a garland of severed heads, a snake as a sacred cord. He wears a bone apron, a cross belt and a scarf ending with raining jewels (next to his ankles).

15th-16th century, Tibet, Tsang province, Mahakala, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Tsang province, Mahakala, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

On this example we can see the knotted snake acting as a sacred cord, and the paws of the tiger skin loin cloth dangling below. His eyes are inlaid with silver.

16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper alloy, at the San Diego Museum of Art (USA).

16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper alloy, at the Newark Museum (USA).

Here the artist has adorned him with ribbons around his hips.

In all cases, the squatting (or sitting) position and the attributes he hold is what identifies the panjarnata form of this deity.

17th century, same as before, private collection, photo by Christie's.

17th century, same as before, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

On this later Chinese-style work he sits on a screaming victim.

 

Tibet, Mahakala – Panjarnata (2)

16th century, Tibet, Mahakala Panjarnata, stone and pigments, at the Rubin Museum of Art (USA).

16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, Panjarnata, painted stone and pigments, at the Rubin Museum of Art (USA).

Panjarnata (or Panjara nata, i.e. ‘Lord of the Pavilion’) is a wrathful form of Mahakala related to Shri Devi. He crouches over a victim and holds a skull cup, a flaying knife and a flat stick (danda) against his heart. He wears a tiger skin dhoti and is adorned with bone jewellery and a skull crown. On the above sculpture, we can see Shri Devi riding her mule to his right and Ekajati (his mother) holding a vase to his left.

Same as before, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie's.

Same as before, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Adorned as above with a skull crown, a garland of severed heads, some hoops and bone jewellery, he wears a celestial scarf that forms a circular shape behind his head. The face is painted with cold gold and the flaming hair with orange pigments.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala Panjarnata, stone, at the British Museum in London (UK).

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala Panjarnata, stone, at the British Museum in London (UK).

Mahakala is accompanied by two small figures (possibly attendants), the panel behind him is adorned with garudas, crows, and possibly tigers.

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala Panjarnata, copper alloy, at the Rubin Museum of Art (USA).

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala Panjarnata, copper alloy, at the Rubin Museum of Art (USA).

On this sculpture, we can clearly see the tiger’s legs knotted at the front and the paws dangling

Tibet, Mahakala – Brahmarupa

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala Brahmarupa, silver, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, Brahmarupa, silver, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Silver sculptures from ancient Tibet are very few and this one is particularly special because it represents a rare form (in sculpture) of Mahakala depicted as a brahmin, with a long moustache and thin beard, his hair gathered in a chignon and adorned with bone ornaments. He holds a skull cup in his left hand and a flaying knife in the other. He is adorned with turquoise-inlaid floral earrings, a tiara with skulls, ritual staffs on each side of his head, bone jewellery, a garland of freshly severed heads.

15th c., Tibet, Mahakala Brahmarupa, silver+turq.+pig., sitting on deer skin, holds flaying knife and skullcup, 12,8 cm, detail

There is a human thigh bone across his chignon.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala Brahmarupa, brass, same as before.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, Brahmarupa, brass, same as before.

Seated on a Pala-style double-lotus base, adorned with a Chinese-style cross-belt,  a garland of severed heads, beaded jewellery, a skull cup with festoons, his scarf forming an arch behind his head,

17th c., Tibet, Mahakala Brahmanrupa, tibia+skull cup

he holds a flute made from a thigh bone in his right hand and a skull cup in the other.

17th c., Tibet, Mahakala Brahmanrupa, middle

There is a human corpse under him.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Mahakala Brahmarupa, brass

17th-18th century, Tibet, Mahakala Brahmarupa, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

On this image he sits (on a victim) over a rocky formation.

 

Tibet, Mahakala – Shadbhuja (5)

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, polychrome wood, private collection, photo by Christie's.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, polychrome wood, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Mahakala holds the hide of an elephant with his upper hands, a flaying knife and a skull cup at heart level in his middle hands, a (partly broken) drum and a noose in the his lower hands. He stands on an elephant-headed deity (Ganapati) over a double-lotus base with broad petals.

15th c., Tibet, Mahakala shadbhuja, polyc. wood, elephant hide, stands on Ganapati, 35,5 cm, close up

His flaming hair stands straight on his head, he is adorned with jewellery and snakes, a garland of freshly severed heads, a five-skull crown with foliate panels. He wears a flowing scarf and a tiger skin dhoti.

16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze, private collection.

16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Mahakala is portrayed with a couple of characters next to him (Jinamitra and takkiraja), and a tiny Vajrapani above his head on the flaming arch. He stands on two elephant-headed deities, each holding a mongoose..

16th c., Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja, bronze+brass+ pig., close up

In his main hands he holds a flaying knife and skull cup, his upper hands hold the hide of an elephant, together with a rosary and a trident, the attributes in his lower hands (probably a noose or a vajra hook and a drum) are missing.

16th c., Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja, bronze+brass+ pig., detail

Below him, there is a figure riding a lion and holding a skull cup.

18th century, same as before.

Labelled 18th century (possibly 16th), same as before.

This similar-looking masterpiece depicts him standing on Ganapati, with the standard flaying knife and skull cup in his main hands, rosary and drum in the remaining right hands, noose in the lower left hand, but there are a couple of unusual features:

18th c., Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja, bronze, 32 cm, Shangpa Kagyu, buddha detail

an effigy of Akshobhya on top of his hair, more often seen on older sculptures of Mahakala in his Chaturbhuja or Panjarnata form.

18th c., Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja, bronze, 32 cm, Shangpa Kagyu, figure in hand

and a human head on a stick in his upper left hand (instead of a trident).